Nats grant Luis Ayala his unconditional release

VIERA, Fla. - Veteran reliever Luis Ayala asked for and was granted his unconditional release by the Nationals today, this after the team informed him that he was being cut.

Ayala plans to try and land a big league job with another organization.

The 36-year-old right-hander signed a minor league deal with the Nationals on February 7, in hopes of winning a spot in the Nats' opening day bullpen.

Ayala made six spring appearances with the Nats and was shelled in two of them, although one of the two poor statistical outings came when manager Matt Williams brought in right fielder Steven Souza Jr. to give the Nats a five-man infield late in a game against the Braves. Ayala then allowed a bases-clearing triple to right.

The sinkerballing righty also allowed five runs on six hits in just 2/3 of an inning his last time out, against the Tigers on March 14.

He punched up a 13.50 ERA over six total innings this spring.

This was Ayala's second stint with the Nationals; he spent the 2003-2008 seasons with the Expos/Nats organization and was a part of the inaugural Nationals team in 2005.

With Ayala's release and Ross Detwiler being moved into a relief role, there are now seemingly nine guys with a shot at the final spot in the opening day bullpen: lefties Xavier Cedeno and Michael Gonzalez, and righties Aaron Barrett, Christian Garcia, Ryan Mattheus, Ross Ohlendorf, Tanner Roark, Manny Delcarmen and Blake Treinen.

Mattheus and Ohlendorf, both of whom are recovering from injuries, might not be able to build up enough arm strength to be a candidate for the opening day bullpen. Ohlendorf is set to appear in his first Grapefruit League game since suffering back spasms in his spring debut, while Mattheus will make his spring debut tomorrow against the Tigers.

The Nats now have 43 players left in big league camp.

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